By Pravin Ganesan, Business Manager – FIRMUS

Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) is a commonly used method compared to Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS), which is more of an emerging technology, for testing the security of a computer system, network, or web application. Both approaches involve identifying and analysing vulnerabilities in the system in order to assess its defences against potential attacks, but there is some debate about which approach is more effective.

One argument in favour of BAS is that it is a more efficient and cost-effective method for testing the security of an infrastructure. By simulating attacks and testing the infrastructure as a whole, BAS allows organizations to quickly identify and address potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses on their existing security technologies. The use of automated tools and techniques can also make BAS faster and easier to implement than VAPT, which may require manual testing and analysis by security professionals.

However, there are some limitations to this approach. One concern is that BAS may not be able to identify all potential vulnerabilities, especially those in relation to server-side vulnerabilities or application vulnerabilities. By focusing solely on simulating attacks and testing the infrastructure’s defences, BAS may miss vulnerabilities that are not directly related to these attacks such as missing patches, misconfiguration on applications etc. This could leave the system vulnerable to other types of attacks that may not be covered by the BAS testing.

On the other hand, supporters of VAPT argue that it is a more comprehensive and reliable method for assessing the security of a system or server-side vulnerabilities. In addition to simulating attacks and testing the system’s defences, VAPT involves manual testing and analysis by security professionals, which can provide a more in-depth and accurate assessment of the system’s vulnerabilities and potential weaknesses from a business risk perspective. By identifying and analysing these vulnerabilities, VAPT can recommend corrective measures to improve the system’s security and reduce the overall risk of that particular asset under test.

However, there are also some limitations to this approach. One concern is that VAPT is generally following the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) databases of vulnerabilities that have been reported. Security researchers all around the world will discover vulnerabilities, submit them to this body and they will publish it as a signature which will later be adopted by vulnerability scanning tool companies to include in their scanners. As this is good to identify known vulnerabilities, it does not cover items such as different ransomware variants, botnet variants, malware and etc. which are more prone for an organization to fall victim and can also incur a lot of money as damage. Thus being said, as it discovered application and server-side vulnerabilities, it does not cover as much when it comes to real-world attackers’ methods of compromising assets.

Given these limitations, it is important for organizations to carefully consider which approach is most appropriate for their specific needs. Both BAS and VAPT have their strengths and limitations, and the most effective approach will depend on the specific security needs of the system and the resources available for testing. Before selecting which assessment to run in the organization, a proper objective on what are the goals to be achieved with this assessment is very important. Without knowing the objective, the assessment chosen may not serve the purpose and be a waste of time and resources for the organization as well. In some cases, it may be necessary to use a combination of both BAS and VAPT in order to achieve a comprehensive assessment of the overall security infrastructure of an organization.